Montreux, Switzerland

Ray Charles statue in Montreux, Switzerland

Ray Charles statue in the garden of the Palace Hotel, Montreux, southwest Switzerland.

Visiting Montreux

Known mainly for its July Jazz Festival, Montreux is a calm and affluent little town with a warm and sunny micro-climate on the edge of Lake Geneva, offering lovely lakeside walks along Promenade Fleuri with flowers blooming and stunning views, attractive buildings and panoramic views across the lake to lower Alps. Main activities involve walks, admiring the statue of Freddie Mercury on Promenade Fleuri, views of Château de Chillon just along the coast and excellent, serious hiking nearby.

Lake Geneva panorama from Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva; Montreux city centre on the right, despoiled by one monstrously out-of-character hotel tower block.

Promenade Fleuri

Montreux waterfront, Montreux' waterfront path Promenade Fleuri, on Lake Geneva, Lac Leman, Switzerland

The beginning of Montreux’ waterfront path Promenade Fleuri, beside Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), from the direction of Vevey.

We were ready to enjoy Montreux after a spectacular morning in Vevey, just a few kilometres away. The weather in August was superb and the five star Le Montreux Palace garden (no, we weren’t staying there) was elegant, artistic and had fantastic views across Lake Geneva to France. Initially the lakeside walks were lush and tranquil. . .

Coaches in Montreux, Switzerland

. . . while tourist coaches idled CO2 into the fresh lake air.

Queen, Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux, Switzerland

But then the rampaging hordes of package tourists appeared, clustered around Freddie Mercury and laying waste to bars, ice-cream parlours and burger stands.

The first weekend of September is Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day while the two week Montreux Jazz Festival is held in July. Actually, non-jazz fans, the festival frequently features artists who are in no way jazz related.

Queen Museum (free)

Nearby the Freddie statue is the Queen Museum (Queen Studio Experience) in the Casino Barriere de Montreal. It’s small and set in part of the original recording studio, displaying memorabilia, historical notes, tributes to Queen, reading anecdotes, looking at original hand written compositions and watching a short documentary film. Fans find it easy to pass and hour or so there listening to greatest hits and absorbing some of the magic.

Interestingly the Casino was one of the original venues of the jazz festival and was gutted by fire during a Frank Zappa concert, immortalized in the Deep Purple song ‘Smoke on the Water’.

Paddle Steamers

Lac Leman paddle steamer, Montreux, Switzerland

Later the bus folk returned to Lausanne or Geneva via Lac Leman paddle steamer while boat arrivals took the coaches home.

A cruise on one of Switzerland’s Belle Epoque paddle boats would be a delight – and a brilliant way to get to/from Geneva or Lausanne – but do try to avoid the flocks of sheeple by visiting Montreux just outside the 2 peak summer months. Or get up early!

Best Seasons

The best months to visit Montreux are September and October with the lowest chance of rainfall (about 1/3 days) and high temperatures of 21C (69F) in September and 15C (59F) in October. May and June have the highest chance of rain, about 14 days per month. In this micro-climate winter temperatures almost never fall below zero; December to February highs are generally 4. 5C (40F) to 6. 2C (43F).

Montreux, walking beside Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Walks by the lakeside east of Freddie. See a proper hike below.

The flowery walk from along Promenade Fleuri from Montreux train station to Chillon castle is gorgeous, especially on a sunny day, and takes about 45 minutes. On Fridays there’s a substantial market along the shore front.

Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle, Montreux, Switzerland

 3 km from Montreux on Lac Leman lurks interesting and medievally atmospheric  Chillon Castle. Photo by Eric Hill.

Chillon Castle (1150) looks in reality a lot less romantic than the normal close-up, no-other-buildings-or-highways-nearby photos, but the Chillon Foundation work hard to make tours of the castle interesting, including a special kid’s brochure (ages 6-10) to keep the little blighters dragon-alert. It’s not perfect but worth a couple of hours, especially if you walk there along the coast from central Montreux. This is apparently the most visited sight in Switzerland, though we have to doubt that claim.

Rochers-de-Naye

Rochers-de-Naye view of Montreux and Lac Leman, Switzerland

The 2, 045m view from Rochers-de-Naye in the Alps down to Montreux and Lac Leman. The mountains around Hauts-de-Montreux are criss-crossed with forest paths, cute villages, caves and wildlife. Photo by Zacharie Grossen.

You can get to Rochers by train and don’t have to do anything more strenuous than admiring the staggering views, having a Swiss lunch (the restaurant has had some very mixed reviews! ) or a picnic, and strolling among the 1, 000 species in the Rambertia alpine garden and visit the marmots in ‘Marmots’ Paradise’ where marmots from around the world live in an observable system of underground burrows.

Alternatively, drive to Col de Jaman and hike for a mere two or three hours to get there.

Getting to Rochers-de-Naye

In order to get there you can take the pricey train or walk the 2000m up/down. We would probably chose the combination of train up and walk down.
The best thing about the Montreux to Rochers-de-Naye trail is you’re never far from a rail station, so it’s a doddle to hop on a train if you get tired. The really pretty part of the walk starts at Haut-de-Caux so one budget transport option is to take the train to this station and start hiking from there, making the journey a mere 4 hours to get 1000m up/down. Alternatively get off at Dent-De-Jaman, just below the peak, where you can enjoy the views and fresh air with minimal activity.
The Rochers-de-Naye trail does require a map as there are varied routes, proper hiking shoes, water, variable clothing according to altitude/season and even a torch/flashlight if you wish to explore the Grottes de Naye caves on the way.

Another Hike

For a serious scenic walk in the Montreux area hikers could also try the six hour ‘Haute Route de la Riviera’ between Les Pléiades and Rochers-de-Naye, 2045m above Montreux.

The Swiss Chocolate Train

The Swiss Chocolate Train is a special day return trip from Montreux. It’s first-class comfort all the way in a vintage ‘Belle Epoque’ Pullman carriage or a modern panorama car with magnificent views of the vineyards surrounding Montreux and medieval Gruyères. The day includes visits to a Gruyères cheese factory and factory visit and chocolate sampling in Nestlé Chocolate Factory in Broc.
The chocolate part of the day is exceptional, entertaining and feel free to eat your own bodyweight in perfect chocolate!
However, it’s obviously touristy and lunch in Gruyères could be costly so pack a picnic and take a short walk out of town if you wish. Avoid rainy days!

The train runs May, June, September and October only on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; during July and August all week.

Getting There

Montreux is an easy day trip from Vevey or Lausanne by car/ferry/train but also doable from other top Switzerland destinations such as Berne or Interlaken by train (in the latter case sit on the left side traveling from Interlaken). n. b opinions on the value of Golden Pass Line train tickets vary but are frequently negative about the value-for-money, tho’ some routes are much more scenic than others.